Should Military Members Be Allowed to Use Marijuana?

July 11, 2022
Should Military Members Be Allowed to Use Marijuana?

This little green plant has many different uses; as of right now. none of them are within the military. Credit: High Times

Marijuana is now fully legal in 11 American states, as well as the nation’s capital. In many states where it’s not legal, it’s well on the path to becoming so. Research on the medicinal effects of marijuana, as well as state profit from selling it, are two of the driving factors to legalization.

In fact, it’s become such a popular topic that many 2020 presidential platforms address the federal ban on pot.

Even so, weed hasn’t lost all of its bad rap. Naysayers claim it makes people lazy and unmotivated; it’s a bad influence on teens; some even call it a “gateway” to drugs like meth, coke, and heroin. 

Let’s jump ahead of ourselves and say that, at some point, marijuana is federally legalized; since the military operates at a federal level, this would introduce the question: should the military lift their ban on marijuana? 

Current Military Policy is Hindering Veterans

Right now in America, there is:

  • Wild success in state distribution and sale of marijuana
  • New marijuana-based medicines cropping up every day
  • Majority public approval of marijuana legalization

As the tides are turning in favor of cannabis use, the military should consider turning with them. 

One group that benefits from cannabis use – perhaps more than any other – are veterans. More and more are getting off VA-prescribed medicines and turning to effective forms of medical marijuana, such as CBD oil. 

CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant but doesn’t get its users high. Many swear by it as a way to relieve chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. 

Even though 34 states have a medical marijuana program, some veterans still struggle to gain access to medical marijuana, and the stigma around it makes it even harder. The VA website specifically states that legal marijuana use will not affect a veteran’s benefits; however, some vets have reported losing their VA home loan and more. 

What’s more: many companies don’t care if it’s legal, and still prohibit cannabis use among employees. This also affects veterans, most of whom are using it purely for medicinal purposes. 

If the military were to give the OK to marijuana – even just medical marijuana – it would break a barrier that is preventing thousands of veterans from receiving adequate medical care.

What About Active Duty Soldiers?

Off the bat, it’s fair to assume that allowing marijuana in the military would increase enlistment. 

Marijuana use is a growing trend among young adults, so much so that some of them may say “no” to a military career if it means giving up cannabis. This is especially true for people who use cannabis to control anxiety or even to boost productivity. 

It’s also fair to point out that many active duty soldiers suffer from physical and mental illnesses caused by their service, and are afraid that speaking up could mean getting out of the military.

Army veteran Matthew Kahl served two tours in Afghanistan. He came out with severe injuries to his face and spine, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He’s found that all of these things can be helped by the use of medical marijuana. 

Kahl is very vocal in his support for changing the military’s view on marijuana — even for the active component. 

“I know of people who are deployed, and they often come across hash in Afghanistan,” Kahl said. Hash is derived from the resin of the cannabis plant and has the same psychoactive effects. 

“They use hash to medicate – not just to medicate the horrors, the hardships of war, but to alleviate the boredom.”

Matthew Kahl
Army vet Matthew Kahl, a proponent for medical marijuana. Credit: The American Homefront Project

Cannabis Boosts the Economy, Too

The military has been staunch in its disapproval of cannabis use, and that includes in states where it is legal. For cities where both a military presence and a cannabis presence overlap, this is pretty bad news. 

Take Colorado Springs, for example. Recreational marijuana use has been legal there for over five years, but they remain the largest city in Colorado that doesn’t have any recreational dispensaries. Why?

They’re scared to lose military presence. 

“The last thing we need to do is make recreational marijuana yet another reason why the Defense Department opts to take missions, troops, personnel … and move it somewhere else,” said Colorado Springs City Council member-elect Wayne Williams.

Losing the military in Colorado Springs would cause economic devastation; but keeping the door shut on dispensaries isn’t making them any money, either.  Especially in a state that just hit $1 billion in annual sales.

Yes to Marijuana in the Military?

There are negatives to any drug, including marijuana. Overuse can cause lethargy, poor decision making, and certainly some brain cell death. What people have to remember is that alcohol is also a drug – one that’s linked to around 88,000 deaths a year. 

Unlike with alcohol, you can’t die of marijuana poisoning, and long-term effects on health are less clear. It also doesn’t tend to make its users violent or prone to mood swings. 

At the end of the day, both marijuana and alcohol can be used irresponsibility. The real difference is that one is widely accepted within society, and even socialized into our population. Especially our young military population. 

Troops should get their “Big Chicken Dinner” if or when they use irresponsibly. But ultimately how they choose to unwind on the weekend should probably be left up to them.

For more, read about SOCOM’s suggestion of a mandatory keto diet.

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